Blind Tasting Chateau Figeac

As I’m becoming more familiar with the “great Bordeaux chateaux” I would say that one in particular has a special meaning for me, and that is Chateau Figeac. Figeac will always remain special because it represents the first time I’ve successfully analyzed a wine in a blind tasting (and consequently got to keep an unopened bottle from the great 2000 vintage!).

I was visiting La Maison du Vin de Saint-Emilion (St. Emilion’s “House of Wine”) with my MBA class, where we attended a presentation on the regional appellations. Following the presentation, we tasted six wines in the corresponding line-up:

  1. Ch. De Puisseguin Curat (2004), AOC Puisseguin Saint-Emilion
  2. Ch. Cap de Merle (2004), AOC Lussac Saint-Emilion
  3. Ch. Du Val d’Or (2004), AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
  4. Ch. Fleur Cardinale (2004), AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
  5. Ch. Les Grandes Murailles (2004), AOC Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé
  6. Blind tasting

Blind tasting??

Highly-acclaimed terroir (notice all the gravel stones; hence, the wine’s large proportion of Cabernet)

When I was studying for the WSET Intermediate certificate, we would routinely taste the wines blind. Personally, I find tasting blind both fun and beneficial in that it removes any initial biases a person may have towards a certain region or grape variety. However, it is also a very humbling experience: I’ll never forget the time I was adamant I was tasting a Chardonnay from South Africa, when in fact it came from Westport Vineyards, Massachusetts (literally 20 minutes away from where I was living!). I can’t remember why I insisted on South Africa—I guess it just seemed exotic (kudos to Westport Vineyards for making destination Chardonnay).

Anyhow, here we were in St. Emilion with a glass of red wine in front of us. The only clue we were given was that the wine was from St. Emilion (surprise, surprise!). So, I did the usual sniffing and swirling and the first thing I picked up on was this green pepper aroma—which became even more apparent in the taste. Hmm… green pepper could mean only one thing: lots of Cabernet Franc!

Unfortunately for me, at the time I could hardly name a single producer from the entire St. Emilion region (my wine budget back home did not allow for much St. Emilion). Otherwise, the only Bordeaux chateau I could think of with a predominate amount of Cabernet Franc was Cheval Blanc (would they really be serving us such expensive wine in a blind tasting?). However, the green pepper aspect was quite apparent.

Chateau Figeac: the actual "castle"

We were then asked to name the vintage. “Who thinks it’s from before 2000?” Several hands went up. “Who thinks it’s after 2000.” Several more. “Non, je crois que c’est une deux mil!” (that was me is my limited French exclaiming it was a 2000). I knew in recent time Bordeaux has seen two stellar vintages: 2005 and 2000. This wine was definitely not young enough to be a 2005. It was very well-integrated with a smooth texture and no harsh tannins. Yet, its complexity implied that it still had a lot more aging potential. Honestly, it was quite fabulous. So, I went for 2000.

“Oui, c’est une 2000.” I was right—hooray! We then were asked to name the producer. Well, like I said, I didn’t really know any producers. So, I told the person conducting the tasting that this was my first time in St. Emilion and that I really don’t know any big names. However, I do know that this wine has a lot of Cabernet Franc in it and would therefore guess Cheval Blanc—only I don’t think the Maison du Vin would be tasting a wine that costs roughly $1000 per bottle to a group of 46 students just to better familiarize them with St. Emilion.

Well, he said I had a very good analysis, which meant I won the tasting. Wow… I was speechless. It was like winning a Miss America competition, but instead of a cheesy crown I was awarded an unopened bottle of the wine in question: 2000 Chateau Figeac.

This whole event happened last October. However, just yesterday I was back in St. Emilion and happened to be passing by Chateau Figeac. I guess my friend who was driving heard me let out a small sigh because he asked if I wanted to stop for a few minutes. So, we did and what you see here are several images I took of the property and its famed terroir.

Incidentally, Chateau Figeac averages 35% Cabernet Franc (the rest is approximately 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot). The only Bordeaux wine I know of with a higher proportion of Cabernet Franc is Cheval Blanc (57% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, with touches of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec) and Ausone (50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Merlot).

The bottle I won became a Christmas gift for my family and was eagerly consumed on Christmas day. Here’s my review for this wine on Cork’d.com (funny, while there was still green pepper, the second time around I picked up more olive flavors—proof that good wine is always evolving, and never boring!)

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